An easier way to sew elastic casings

sew_elastic_into_a_circleThis is one of those things that I think everybody knows already so why do a tutorial on it, but I’ve needed to show it to 2 people in the last month. I would consider these people to be experienced, so I’m thinking it should be better known. This tutorial will show you how to insert elastic into a casing without resorting to using a safety pin or bodkin. It won’t help for elastic that is stitched down so all I can say is use what you can and leave the rest.

The first step is to sew the elastic into a loop (without twists obviously). This is pictured at right.

Second step (below), have the garment or product ready for the casing. Meaning, finish off the side seams and what have you. For my sample, I’ve sewn one seam into a rectangle of muslin. As per my usual, I’m using a contrasting color thread so you can see the stitching.


Step three (below), in preparation for this tutorial, I’ve pressed in a tiny hem for the casing hem. Normally I would not do that. I would turn under the edge as I went along but I did it for this tutorial so I would have fewer things to manage. Another option would be to overlock that edge. But anyway, you can see the elastic is laid up against the turned hem because I’ll fold it to create the casing.


Step 4 below, I’ve folded a hem (casing) to cover the elastic. Use your usual casing allowance. The casing allowance should be 1/4″ deeper than the width of your elastic. This is for two reasons. The first is obvious—you don’t want to catch the elastic in the seam. Second, the elastic does its work much better if it is not wedged into a casing like a sausage.


Step 5, the casing is positioned under the needle for sewing.


Step 6, sew and sew some more. After a bit, you’ll “run out” of elastic. You need to raise the presser foot (with needle down) and pull the elastic from the sewn portion of the casing to give you a clean sewing target.


Step 7 below is but more of the same. This is the home stretch. Eventually you’ll end up where you started.


And below is the finished effect.


Hope you found this tip helpful, happy stitching!

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  1. Angela says:

    LOL!! Thank you!! I had been trying to find someplace that showed how to do an elastic casing like that, but I kept finding the usual – make the casing and thread it through. One place had me stitching the elastic on top and bottom, and wow that did not turn out well. I will book mark this and try it soon! I knew there had to be an easy way to accomplish this, but I wasn’t sure what I was missing.

  2. AnnK says:

    Thanks Kathleen! This is similar ——- but much better —– than something I’ve done in the past and I’m very glad to see it posted.

  3. Quincunx says:

    I have known it, but you were right, tutorials were a little hard to find.

    Bonus is that you can pop the loop of elastic around yourself and check if it’s the right length or not before committing to sewing it into the casing.

  4. Melissa says:

    Will give it try… looks like it could be way easier then the other ways!
    Looking at your pics, I have a question: is that only for showing the technique that you’re encasing a short elastic? I always use a 1” elastic for waistline, am I wrong?

  5. Diane says:

    I DO love to learn these things from you. I am so grateful, but you so often make me feel like I need to bang my head on the wall. I KNEW there was a better way and when you show me it makes so much sense. I just wish I could have learned sooner!

  6. Brunella B Rosser says:

    I really can’t believe how long I’ve been sewing in elastic using the old and time-consuming method.
    Thanks so much!

  7. Virginia McCarley says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. I have not seen this method demonstrated. I am thrilled that I will be able to use this in the future!

  8. Gale Loveitt says:

    So surprising to discover a new way to do such a routine task! Thank you.

    My question; I frequently stitch very close to the casing fold as well as at the raw (but finished/folded over) edge. I was taught that the fold is better protected from wear in doing so and is tidier looking.

    In actuality is the edge stitch more a custom sewing technique, a bit of poor advise from a picky teacher, just not a usual production technique or another choice of no real consequense?

    I’m looking forward to my next project with a casing.


  9. Avatar photo

    Gale: I don’t know that the fold is better protected from wear (unless it is fused) but it can certainly look tidier. I don’t think it is poor advice from a picky (yay!) teacher either. I don’t think this process is as common as it once was but it can be a great finish depending on the look you are going for.

  10. Theresa in Tucson says:

    I had known about this, in theory, but had never wrapped my brain around it so thank you. The pictures definitely helped me see how it all went together. And so timely! I’m taking a knit class this coming up semester and this will fall right in place since I have a pair of capri length cycling pants just waiting to be stitched up. They have only been cut out for a year. Sheesh. I sometimes do partial elastic waists and this method looks like it can be adapted for that.

  11. vee says:

    I learn this technique ten years ago when I couldn’t find a safety pin at 3:00 a.m. in the morning because I needed the skirt the next morning. Its so easy especially for knits.

  12. Gale says:

    Kathleen, Yes, yay for perfectionist teachers ESP for perfectionist students.
    Thanks, I will see if I can do this method and add the edge stitch as well. Always good to have new bits to play with.

  13. Lisa Blank says:

    This method is new to me and definitely one I want to try. Thanks so much for sharing what we all should have known anyway.

  14. Raquel Sosa says:

    Is there a foot for this? I vaguely remember a post about a sewing parts catalog you spoke about that had an attachment that would help with the folding of waistbands. Do they make attachments that mimic this process? Just wondering.

  15. Dia in MA says:

    Raquel: A zipper foot works well for a home sewer. The distance on the thin side of the foot is a nice estimate for both the fold over, placing the elastic, and the stitching.

    LOL, the things that get forgotten. This used to be standard practice in the factory I worked in.

  16. LinB says:

    I’m with you, Miz Kathleen, honey: I would never have guessed that so many people have never heard of this technique! It’s extra helpful when rescuing a perfectly good piece of elastic from a garment that has otherwise suffered too much wear and/or tears or undisguisable staining. No need to cut the elastic band. No need to leave a short bit of casing unsewn while you shove the elastic through the casing, then try to make the final sewing-up match the rest of the stitching. It’s a winner.

  17. Leigh says:

    Good lord. I’ve been dragging the elastic through the casing with a bodkin without ever THINKING about it. What a simple and obvious solution! Thank you from my little corner of the home sewing world. I’m going to my ASG meeting next week and will see if I am the only one out in the cold on this one or if I have company in the “Ignorant Elastic Casing” club.

  18. Sue says:

    Seems absolutely brilliant and logical, had never thought of it in over 50 years of sewing However will def. give it a go next time. Thanks for posting.

  19. Paula Hudson says:

    Can I just say, “Doh!” I’ve been sewing for almost 40 years, used to make every stitch that went on my body except for my unmentionables, and I never thought of this! As always, thank you, Kathleen!

  20. M-C says:

    Thank you so much for more brilliant advice! I just tried this, and it was -so- much easier.. First, it’s brainless to make a correct loop in the elastic :-). Then it’s very easy to hold the elastic against the fold so you have 1/2″ fabric sticking out, you get your foldover and your slack in one easy package that has room for a little drunken deviation the first time, no measuring at all. Also, if you find the pulling the elastic from the front causes too much bunching around the needle, you can always pull it from behind instead.

    I’m afraid you can never assume that we know super-simple stuff like that Kathleen..

  21. Liz says:

    This arrived in my “mailbox” just at the perfect time. I cut out 2 pairs of pull on pants last night and really appreciate the great pictures and clear instructions for finishing them off. Thank-you

  22. Marianne says:

    This is how I have always done elastic casings. Also, instead of sewing the elastic together (to itself), I take a scrap of fabric and sew each end to it, ends butted together, then fold over the fabric scrap, sew again, encasing the ends. This gives a flat joint of the elastic. I also generally will anchor the elastic joint at the center back seam with a few stitches, before encasing the elastic loop. Besides pressing under the 1/4 ” at the top raw edge, then I also press what will become the top line and/or mark the line to which the casing folds down on the inside of the garment, just to have a bit more definition of the finished edges. This makes it easier to stay on track as I go around the garment.

  23. lady runa says:

    Thanks for the tutorial – definitely a timesaver, and it looks like it’ll look much better in the end than the traditional way.

    One question: in step 7, you’ve got the fabric held up to the left of your machine by some piece of metal that’s attached to the machine above and behind the presser foot. What is that? It looks like a handy attachment (and it’s probably ONLY available for industrial machines)

  24. Kathleen says:

    Runa: The fabric is caught on the doo-hickey; that’s not its purpose. You’re going to love this, it’s a turret foot. I love love love love mine. I’m pretty sure you can only get them for industrials. Sorry. :(

  25. sar says:

    Thanks alot, Kathleen. I have a number of good quality pants bought many years ago,and the waist band elastic has stretched way out of shape. Ripping out the waistband casing would be difficult because of the multiple rows of stitching on the waistband. Could you please suggest an alternative?

  26. Juliette Ellchuk says:

    What a super way of putting in elastic. I’ve been sewing for 50 years and did not know it could be done so easily. Thank you!

  27. Destiny Edmonds says:

    Ah! So this is how the pros do it! I did some skirts with elastic waistbands last year and am getting paid to do some more and I was like “I need to do this faster this time” SOO glad I found this, THANK YOU!!

  28. Deborah says:

    I have been sewing for years and always made the casing then put the elastic through with a safety pen this is much better I will have to try this next time thanks

  29. Morissa says:

    I knew that was an easier way to do this!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Now i can finally finish my kids pajama pants.

  30. Mariruth Brown says:

    When I try the printer-friendly version I don’t get the pictures. What am I doing wrong. I am a beginner sewer and need to follow visual directions as well.

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